Egyptian Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Nasr el-Din Allam will present a report summarizing Egypt’s participation in the recent Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) conference in Addis Ababa to the Egyptian Council of Ministers on Wednesday. The council will then prepare a full report on the conference for President Hosni Mubarak.
The NBI conference, which concluded on Sunday, brought together water ministers from the nine member states of the NBI. Recent media reports have focused on continuing disagreements between the downstream states–Egypt and Sudan–and upstream members of the NBI over how to allocate Nile water. Five upstream states–Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda–signed a draft framework agreement in Entebbe, Uganda last month, which, if ratified, would grant them a greater share of the river’s water.
Egyptian government sources, however, are putting a positive spin on the conference. According to these sources, the otherwise productive gathering was only marred by “outbursts” by Ethiopian Irrigation Minister Asfaw Dingamo.
The same sources also noted that NBI water ministers would meet again in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi in November. The officials added that, despite Sudan’s Sunday announcement that it was freezing its membership in the NBI to protest the upstream states’ refusal to renegotiate the Entebbe agreement, it was expected to join the eight other NBI members at the Nairobi meeting.
Al-Masry Al-Youm also learned that Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit is scheduled to travel to Ethiopia on 6 July to discuss matters of bilateral cooperation–particularly as they pertain to water issues–with his Ethiopian counterpart.
According to the same sources, the Egyptian government is currently preparing an action plan to present to the upstream states, which will include doubling the budget of the Egyptian Fund for Technical Cooperation with Africa to LE100 million. The fund finances development projects, training programs and the digging of wells in upstream NBI states. The Egyptian ministries of foreign affairs, irrigation and foreign cooperation have been tasked with coordinating implementation of the plan.
In an interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm, Hany Raslan, director of the Sudan and Nile Basin Department at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, stated it was unlikely that Sudan’s decision to freeze its NBI membership would negatively affect Egypt. According to Raslan, the move was meant to send a message to the upstream states, particularly Ethiopia, that a failure to resolve the impasse at the upcoming emergency meeting could lead to further escalation.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.